6:34 a.m. 39 degrees, wind W 0 mph. Sky: overcast with irregular
highlights; on the far-side of sunrise, clouds dissociate, flesh-colored
edgings. Permanent streams: the sweet, soothing sound of moving water,
albeit rather slowly. Wetlands: treetop haze, lid on a bowl of reeds; the
green ribbon of the main channel greener; everything else collapsible
brown, weighed down my wind and rain . . . soon to be broken by snow. Three
flickers fly northeast to southwest across the marsh, white rumps over
brown reeds, semaphoric flashes. Pond: mist with hooded mergansers, one
non-breeding male and two young-of-the-years females, in tandem; scull to
the north end of the pond, rippling the water; then dive, one after the
other. Bobbing to the surface with food. Beetle larvae? Tadpoles?
Chicken-salad sandwiches? Too far, too misty to tell.
A world of matted, dull-colored leaves, wet that leaves stick to
everything: upright trees, boulders, rocky streambeds, roadside, patches of
hay-scented ferns, lawns, driveways; summer's funeral, autumn's chore,
winter's insulation, spring's nourishment. Alders still green. Red oak and
beech: rust and copper.
The red-shouldered hawk flies up the Hollow, leading with his voice, which
lingers like shards of broken glass. Crow rapidly clucks, the banging of
hollow sticks, suddenly switches to a more familiar *caw*. Visions of May:
hermit thrush in the lilacs, the barn, hushed and withered echos of another
season. An ensemble of woodpeckers: pileated, downy, hairy (several). Flush
two woodcocks, a distinctive whistling of wings
Six or seven hyperactive golden-crowned kinglets in white spruce, hovering,
probing, pecking, crowns radiant. Kinglets hover, nearly vertically, just
above twig tips, like a hummingbird but slower vertical flaps. I'm not at
all sure a Vermont bird has a more beautiful head—the golden crown and
black and white facial stripes. Otherwise, a rather plain, quiet songbird.
Nearly as small as a ruby-throated hummingbird, kingbirds do not go into
torpor, as chickadees do, during cold winter nights. Capable of enduring
temperatures up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, golden-crowned kinglets bunch
together to conserve heat and feed all day on soft-bodied insects and
spiders and their eggs. In winter, I find them with mixed flocks of
chickadees and nuthatches. But one winter morning, several years ago, from
a bridge over Goose Creek, in northern Virginia, I ran past dozens and
dozens of golden-crowned kinglets that enlivened the riverine cottonwoods
and box elders, the largest kinglet gathering I've seen. I mostly see just
a few, drizzling high, thin unconsolidated notes from a density or spruce
Hoping for late warblers, I received early kingbirds—a
serendipitous morning ramble.